LeBron James, Cavs muscle way to win over Raptors in Game 1
Cleveland star shows no signs of rust, pours in 24 points
Midway through the second quarter of Tuesday night's debacle, LeBron James threw down a rim-rattling one-handed dunk, then tilted his head back in a long, primal scream.
He might as well have yelled: Welcome to the Eastern Conference final, Toronto.
The four-time NBA MVP scored 24 points on near perfect shooting, while Kyrie Irving had 27 as the Cavaliers throttled the visiting Raptors 115-84 in Game 1 on Tuesday — Toronto's first conference finals appearance in franchise history.
"I thought they were the fresher team, the quicker team tonight. [But] it's one game," said Raptors coach Dwane Casey. "This series is not over by any means. We have another game on another night.
"The score is embarrassing, but again, it's just one game."
James punished the weary Raptors on 11-for-13 shooting, scoring on his first nine shots, and looking for most of the night like a man playing against boys.
DeMar DeRozan had 18 points, but the rest of the Raptors could do little against a Cavaliers team that went into the night after a nine-day break. Bismack Biyombo had 12 points, while James Johnson finished with 10.
"We're surely not going to make no excuses, but they've been off their feet, we've been battling for the last couple of weeks, and they came up with that...quick first step," DeRozan said. "We didn't meet it like we wanted to."
The Raptors hung in with the home team through the opening quarter, but almost as if they'd been toying with Toronto, the Cavaliers then thrust a foot on the throat of the Raptors and held it there until the final, merciful, buzzer.
Casey waves white flag
When James blew past DeMarre Carroll for his massive windmill dunk that had the 20,562 fans roaring, it capped a 20-2 Cavaliers run and it was all but game over for Toronto already. Cleveland's 22-point lead in the second quarter became a whopping 28 points by the end of the third, as the Cavs took a 95-67 advantage into the fourth.
Casey waved the virtual white flag with 10 minutes to play, pulling his starters for seldom-used Delon Wright and Jason Thompson.
When Terrence Ross went up for what should have been an easy dunk with six minutes left to play, the ball bounced out, an apt metaphor on an ugly night. With three minutes to play, fans erupted into chants of "U-S-A!"
Nothing for free
Cleveland held Kyle Lowry, who scored 35 points in Toronto's Game 7 win over Miami, to just eight. Neither Lowry nor DeRozan went to the free throw even once on the night.
"Just us being more aggressive," DeRozan said. "We've got to come out the gate with that mindset, being aggressive like we usually do, and I think we didn't try to do that until later on in the game."
The Cavs outrebounded Toronto 45-23, and while they'd been burning opponents from three-point range in these playoffs, they instead attacked from close range, clobbering Toronto 56-36 in the paint.
"It's our preparation," James said of Cleveland's unblemished post-season. "We understand the moment and guys are rising to that."